Notre Dame partners with University of Sao Paulo for law conference

Whether it’s Brazil’s massive kickback scandal that has roiled the country for three years, or U.S. President Donald Trump firing his FBI director over an unwanted investigation, university scholarship around anti-corruption and rule of law crosses international lines.

That was the theme of the first collaboration between the University of Notre Dame and University of São Paulo law schools, part of Notre Dame’s effort to build its presence in the ninth-largest economy and the world’s largest Catholic country. Faculty from Notre Dame’s Kellogg Institute for International Studies and Department of Political Science also took part.

Brazil “has a special place in Notre Dame’s understanding of the world and the region. We have a tremendous number of similarities in the things that we value, champion and that we are trying to do to promote the common good,” said Michael Pippenger, Notre Dame vice president and associate provost for internationalization. “Today those things have to do with anti-corruption, rule of law, ethics, integrity in the corporate sector and in government. These are strengths of our own faculty members and research institutes and to that end, that’s the dialogue we’re starting now.”

The University on October 2, 2017 presented the Notre Dame Award to Brazilian Judge Sergio Moro, who has overseen key cases in the scandal known as “Car Wash,” involving the state oil company, Petrobras, large construction firms and scores of politicians.

So far, the probe has resulted in 157 convictions and the recovery of more than $12 billion, according to the New York Times.

University President Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C. recognized Moro, the first winner from Latin America, for his fight for the rule of law and “preservation of the nation’s integrity.”

At a conference following the award conferral, professors from the two law schools traded research and opinion on the political and ethical challenges each country faces.

“What was magic about the Car Wash operation is that it exposed enormous problems, but gives us a bright future from institutions that are now aware of their obligation to follow the law,” said Augusto Neves Dal Pozzo, law professor at the Pontifical Catholic University of São Paulo.

Notre Dame law professor Jimmy Gurule discussed his recent studies on presidential powers, prompted by Trump’s promise to jail Hillary Clinton if he became president and, later, his firing of FBI Director James Comey as president, a move he admitted had to do with Comey’s probe into whether the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians in the 2016 election.

“As a prosecutor, I’m very sensitive to the role of the department of justice and the independence of prosecutors … to not be influenced by political pressure,” said Gurule, a former assistant U.S. attorney and deputy chief of the major narcotics section in Los Angeles. “The final conclusion of my research on the topic is that no one is above the law, including the President of the United States.”

Professor Roger Alford, now on leave from Notre Dame as deputy assistant attorney general for international affairs in the U.S. Department of Justice Antitrust Division, spoke about the importance of international cooperation.

“I am directly involved in matters at the intersection of the rule of law and economic prosperity,” he said. “In a world where business transcends geographic boundaries, many of our cases involve cooperation with our foreign counterparts, and we rely on these relationships to amplify our efforts to promote competition and the rule of law.”

Alford, former director of Notre Dame’s London Global Gateway, applauded Notre Dame’s efforts to build its profile in and relationship with countries like Brazil.

“Notre Dame has an amazing reputation in the United States but is not as well known around the world as it should be,” Alford said. “So the strategy of having global gateways and global centers as hubs of intellectual excellence are really important.”